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Reviewed by Nina Longfield

Georges Braque was one of my first artistic crushes. Braque was a prolific artist and a major contributing influence to artistic movements through the twentieth century. It wasn’t the artist, but rather his work that captivated me. It began with Braque’s painting Maisons a l’Estaque (1908). I was riveted by this geometric landscape. It was quiet, yet vibrant all at once. In Georges Braque: A Life, Alex Danchev shows that Braque’s foundation is exhibited within his paintings. Braque was an artist who believed the art should speak and the artist should remain silent. His was a contemplative life in comparison to his exuberant friend and fellow Cubist, Pablo Picasso.

Alex Danchev begins the biography with the introduction of three key events in Braque’s life: birth, death, and death. Danchev covers Braque’s life in detail. Braque was raised in Le Havre in the late nineteenth century at the end of the Impressionist era, yet the period influenced the young Braque and made itself known in Braque’s earliest works. Braque experimented with ideas developed by the Impressionists then moved into a Fauvist-style after seeing works exhibited by the Fauves in 1905.

Braque’s move to Paris was his defining moment, as with many artists, and it is in the infamous Montmartre district that Braque meets other artists and begins developing artistic methods of his own conception. It is in Montmartre in 1908 that Braque meets Pablo Picasso; both shared an admiration of Cezanne’s works. This meeting of the young artists had a profound affect on both men’s careers and led to the era known as Cubism. With the First World War, Braque’s and Picasso’s close working collaboration ended when Braque enlisted into the army. After a slow recovery from a serious head injury sustained on the Western Front, Braque continued to work in the Cubist-styling but softened his stark lines adding more color and texture to his artistic works. It was the decade before and decades following the Great War that Braque made his mark as an influential artist of not only France but the world. Braque’s career was prolific from early on until his death in Paris on August 31st, 1963.

Georges Braque: A Life, by Alex Danchev is what it claims to be: a biographic compilation of the life of one of the great twentieth century artists. Danchev sprinkles his book with readily known facts mixed throughout with tid-bits of hidden treasure. Georges Braque: A Life is well written and appears to be well researched. Danchev’s work provided me with a deep insight into this creative artist’s life, as well as his artwork.

I was intrigue with the notion that the so called Lost Generation extended to the French (and I’m presuming all nationalities) who fought in the Great War; Gertrude Stein’s memoirs are referenced heavily in describing the artists both before and after the war. Within Danchev’s pages, Braque comes across as both complex and uncomplicated. I was not disappointed with the contents of this biography and now have a deeper admiration for the artist’s works. Considering this is a biography about an artist who preferred letting his artwork speak rather than his own words, Alex Danchev creates a vivid impression of Georges Braque’s life that seems to ring true, holds no supposition, and is easily read.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Arcade Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.